Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announces Centers of Hope Expansion at Ben Hill Recreation Center (Photo courtesy CBS Atlanta)

The Centers of Hope Initiative has been launched by the City of Atlanta as part of Mayor Kasim Reed’s pledge to re-open all of the city’s recreation centers and convert them to state-of-the-art learning facilities with both academic and recreational programs.

At the launch, Reed announced an expanded partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and initiatives to increase enrollment at the centers. “I grew up in an era when recreation centers were essential components to youth and community development,” said Reed. “I am living my dream, in part, because of advantages afforded to me in my neighborhood. I know first-hand the importance of a center of hope.”

Of the 33 recreation centers, the City of Atlanta has created 10 Centers of Hope, high-performing recreation centers with enhanced youth development programming. Those locations are: Adams; Adamsville; Bessie Branham; Grove Park; Peachtree Hills; Ben Hill; MLK; Rosel Fann; Pittman; and Thomasville. These 10 centers were identified based on geographic and demographic criteria. More than 90 percent of young people in the city live within 2.5 miles of a Center of Hope or the Chastain Arts Center.

In 2011, the City of Atlanta partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA) to open the first Center of Hope in Thomasville Heights. As part of an expanded partnership, the BGCMA will now serve as the primary partner at three additional sites including the Centers of Hope at Adamsville, Ben Hill and Pittman.

As part of daily programming, the Centers of Hope will now serve healthy snacks and hot meals to hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable youth. For a 180-day school year, more than 140,000 meals and snacks will be served to over 800 students participating in the program. In partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, transportation will now be provided from 38 schools to the 10 Centers of Hope locations. In an effort to assist families with registration costs, the City of Atlanta will offer a discount to teens that purchase a $5 “ATL Teen Club” access card. For teens (ages 13-17) that purchase the card, the Department of Parks and Recreation will waive the $50 afterschool program registration fee. The offer is available for a limited time and valid at all Center of Hope sites and Dunbar Recreation Center.

The Department of Parks and Recreation also announced plans to provide free Wi-Fi at all 10 Center of Hope locations. The Center of Hope at Ben Hill is currently wired and ready for use. The nine remaining sites will be completed by Dec. 31. In 2014, the department will launch a program that will provide free Wi-Fi program at all 33 recreation centers.

Following the ceremony, Reed led dignitaries and community partners into the Center of Hope at Ben Hill’s new two-story, 7,000 sq. ft. expansion, which is expected to be fully completed by Oct. 15. The expansion includes a game room, multipurpose room, teaching kitchen and activity room.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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